Sure, it’s a hackable synth, but it’s a playable synth first. Let’s make the MeeBlip SE make some sounds.
1. Connect your MeeBlip.
You’ll need to connect power, sound, and MIDI to use your MeeBlip.
Power (9V adapter): Connect the power adapter we’ve included if you’re a customer in the USA, or any 9V, 500 mA or greater power adapter with a tip that fits. (Our US power adapter will work anywhere in the world with the proper physical connector attached to it. We ship it in the US only because it keeps our weight low for overseas orders.)
Audio (1/4″ TRS): Connect a 1/4″ TRS “jack plug” to the audio connector, to connect the MeeBlip to a mixer, an audio interface, or a pair of headphones. Note: the jack is mono, so if you connect a stereo plug, one side will be dead. Just set up the audio as a mono input, though, and you should be fine.
MIDI input: You need a MIDI input from a sequencer or keyboard (or other MIDI device) so you can play the MeeBlip. Connect that device’s MIDI output to the MeeBlip’s MIDI input. (You can even use an iPad, with a compatible MIDI interface.)
Hey, why no USB? We’re not anti-USB, but having a standard MIDI DIN connection for us is a must. It means the ability to connect to external outboard gear, to older equipment, and not to have to worry about power issues. If you don’t have a MIDI interface, you can get models from makers like Roland/Edirol, Behringer, and M-Audio built into a design that’s not much bigger or costlier than a couple of cables.
2. Power on the MeeBlip.
There’s no off switch on the MeeBlip, so just connect power, and the MIDI indicator switch should light red. This light is always on when the MeeBlip is receiving power, and turns off only on incoming MIDI messages. Connect power first and verify that you get a solid light, then connect MIDI.
Note: it’s reasonably safe to plug and unplug MeeBlip’s power, so if that sort of thing makes you nervous, relax. That means you can safely unplug and replug the MeeBlip if you get a stuck note or some other symptom, also known as “have you tried turning it off and on again?”
3. Set the MIDI channel.
MIDI routes messages to different instruments and instrumental parts using different channels, numbered 1-16. If you send a message on MIDI channel 3 and the MeeBlip is set to receive on channel 1, it won’t get the message. And yes, even those of us who have been using MIDI for many years sometimes forget to check the channel and then wonder why there’s no sound.
To set the receive channel on the MeeBlip SE, press and release the MIDI button. The MIDI indicator light will flash. As it’s flashing, toggle one of the MeeBlip’s switches. “osc a wave” sets MIDI channel 1, “pwm sweep” channel 2, and so on, through channel 15. Switch 16, “knob shift,” sets the MIDI mode to Omni. In Omni mode, you’ll receive MIDI on all channels.
If the MeeBlip is your only connected MIDI equipment, you should probably set the channel to Omni and forget about it.
Here’s a quick video demo, shot on a smartphone, showing how the press-release-toggle method works. First, you’ll see me load a preset, then set a MIDI channel.
4. Play some notes.
The MeeBlip automatically loads a preset when you switch it on, or restores the last-used knob and switch positions. That means you should hear something right away.
Try pressing notes on a MIDI keyboard or other MIDI trigger, or entering a simple sequence into a sequencer. The MIDI light will blink off when it receives a note.
Some MIDI keyboards do send odd MIDI messages, so if you get a behavior you don’t expect, try a different MIDI source to test.
5. Load a preset.
So, remember how we set the MIDI channel? We’re going to use the same technique to load up presets. The MeeBlip has 16 preset slots. To get you going, we’ve loaded those presets for you – though you should happily replace them with your own later, if you like.
To load a preset, press and release the Load button. The MIDI indicator light will flash. As it’s flashing, toggle one of the MeeBlip’s sixteen switches to load a corresponding preset. You’ll hear sounds that make different use of combinations of the two oscillators, different filter and envelope settings, and different LFO modulation.
Now is a perfect time to try utterly ignoring this documentation and twiddling knobs and switches to see what results you get. You can’t hurt anything, and you can always load up a preset if you get lost. In particular, you may find the Distortion and Anti-Alias settings have a subtle impact on sound that’s worth trying out with different presets. And because a lot of the presets make use of the LFO, the dedicated LFO Enable switch is useful to toggle, as it will immediately let you hear what the LFO is doing to the sound.
We’ll wait as you play.
6. A quick tour of the controls.
This is meant to just be a starter, not a detailed reference for each control – and you just want to twiddle and tweak, anyway. But here’s a quick overview:
The MeeBlip is a two-oscillator, traditional analog subtractive synth. You’ll start by combining the two waveforms, then filtering their sound, and adjusting the envelope of the amplitude (the shape of each note) and filter. Mixing the two waveform creates a spectrally-rich, complex sound, which you can then shape with the filter, somewhat in the way the body of an acoustic instrument changes its sound. Finally, you can add modulation with the LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator), which modifies the sound a bit like vibrato or tonguing techniques do on a non-electronic instrument.
Build a waveform. Set OSC A and OSC B’s waveforms to one of the fixed values. The PWM knob only works with OSC A, and only when the PWM waveform is selected. So try it now: switch OSC A WAVE to PWM, then adjust the PWM knob to change the width of the sound, which modifies the spectral content of the rectangle wave.
Important note regarding one-oscillator operation: You can switch osc b off completely. When you do so, the MeeBlip doubles the amplitude of the first oscillator. (This keeps it from being too quiet when you have only one oscillator instead of two. And, you know, we like loud things.)
Like the sound as you move the PWM knob back and forth? The PWM Sweep button engages a fixed sweep in pulse width. It’s basically the same effect as if you manually turned the knob each time you played a note, but hands free – and makes some nice sounds for basses, leads, and pads.
Set the filter. Because the LFO can be routed to the filter, and the filter greatly impacts the sound, adjust your Filter Cutoff and Resonance next. The high-pass filter is more of an acquired taste on the MeeBlip – capable of creating some unique sounds, but probably not something you’d use every day. So, get started by setting Filter Mode to Low, for a resonant low-pass filter. (Note: if you do try the high-pass filter, note that the Resonance knob is not enabled for the High setting, only Low. Why? The high-pass filter sounds better without resonance!)
Knob Shift. The toggle for Knob Shift switches the center four knobs’ function. With it in the up position, you have access to the amplitude and filter envelopes. In the down position, you instead access Glide, Filter Env Amount, LFO Depth, and LFO Rate.
Try switching Knob Shift to the up position and adjust Attack and Decay (Release) for the amplitude and filter envelopes.
Envelope Sustain. The Amp Env Sustain toggles on or off the sustain stage of the amplitude and filter envelopes.
When the Envelope Sustain switch is on, the sustain level is set to 100% and the decay time is set to 100%. This means that you simply control Attack and, via the Decay knob, Release time. This more sustained sound is great for longer pads and timbres, like LFO-modulated drones.
When the Envelope Sustain switch is off, the sustain level is set to zero and the Decay knobs control both Decay and Release. That’s useful for shorter and more percussive sounds.
LFO. The LFO can be routed to either the oscillators – where it changes the pitch of the sounds you hear – or to the cutoff of the filter. Try it in each position, and adjust down the Rate and Depth, then slowly increase them. You can always switch the LFO off to get a sense of what you’re doing to the sound.
7. Save a preset.
Wait. Stop. Like that sound and want to save it?
Press and release the Save button. Now you know the drill: the MIDI light will flash, and toggle one of the 16 switches to save into that preset position.
Note that this will overwrite the previous saved preset. But don’t worry: part of the spirit of the MeeBlip is exploring and finding new sounds.
8. Try MIDI.
If you’re ready to do more than control the MeeBlip from the front panel – and if you want to save your performances and sound tweaks beyond recording audio and using those 16 preset sounds – it’s time to add MIDI control.
Every sound parameter represented on the MeeBlip SE front panel – the parameter behind every switch and every knob – responds to a corresponding MIDI Control Change message.*
Refer to our MIDI Implementation Chart (below) to see what does what. Intrepid MeeBlip owners are also contributing their own plug-ins and templates for their favorite hosts, too, to make it easier to control the MeeBlip via MIDI.
Here’s the basic idea: knobs respond to a Control Change message, scaled from 0 to 127. Switches treat any message from 0 to 63 as “off,” and 64 to 127 as “on.” Why would we treat off and on as a range rather than just using an on/off message? Simple: it allows you to use external hardware that has knobs, but not switches, to control those parameters. If the knob is below the halfway mark, it’ll behave the same way as toggling a switch to off. If the knob is above the halfway mark, it’ll toggle the switch on. (This is essential in particular on our MeeBlip micro, because it might not have any onboard switches or knobs at all.)
MIDI Message Mapping
All of the Meeblip SE parameters can be controlled (or overridden) using MIDI CC commands.
The knobs start at CC 48:
CC 48: Filter Resonance
CC 49: Filter Cutoff
CC 50: LFO Frequency
CC 51: LFO Level
CC 52: Filter Envelope Amount
CC 53: Portamento
CC 54: Pulse Width/PWM Rate
CC 55: Oscillator Detune
CC 58: Filter Decay
CC 59: Filter Attack
CC 60: Amplitude Decay
CC 61: Amplitude Attack
The switches start at CC 64:
CC 64: Knob Shift
CC 65: FM off/on
CC 66: LFO Random (off/on)
CC 67: LFO Wave (Triangle/Square)
CC 68: Filter Mode (Low/High)
CC 69: Distortion (off/on)
CC 70: LFO Enable (off/on)
CC 71: LFO Destination (Filter/Oscillator)
CC 72: Anti Alias (off/on)
CC 73: Oscillator B Octave (Normal/Up)
CC 74: Oscillator B Enable
CC 75: Oscillator B Wave (Triangle/Square)
CC 76: Envelope Sustain (off/on)
CC 77: Oscillator A Noise (off/on)
CC 78: PWM Sweep (Pulse/PWM)
CC 79: Oscillator A Wave (Sawtooth/PWM)
A switch is off if its value is between 0-63, on if it’s 64 or higher.
(*There’s no MIDI message for loading or saving presets, or for the MIDI button or setting default MIDI channel. These functions are accessed only via the hardware. But they don’t have anything to do with sound.)
9. Laugh heartily, go forth and make noises.
That’s it! Let us know what sounds you make, and do share your music and other creations!